The federal government has given more
than $16 million in grants to 25 states to promote the
conservation of threatened and endangered species.
The new grants will benefit dozens of rare species,
such as marbled murrelets, salmon, and bull trout in
the Pacific Northwest; the aplomado falcon in the Southwest;
the Karner blue butterfly in the Midwest; the Florida
scrub jay in the Southeast; the Atlantic salmon in the
Northeast; and the Preble's meadow jumping mouse in
the Rocky Mountains.
Making the announcement Tuesday, Interior Secretary
Gale Norton said it is her philosophy that states should
be given more resources and greater flexibility to protect
habitat and conserve threatened and endangered species.
"States will use these grants to strengthen and build
vital and cost-effective conservation partnerships with
local communities and willing private landowners, partnerships
that are essential to helping species prosper and recover,"
These awards are the first under the Recovery Land
Acquisition and the Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance
Grant programs, new grants funded by Congress to respond
to growing interest by states and landowners in managing
their lands to benefit species and their habitats.
The service awarded $10.4 million in Recovery Land
Acquisition grants, which provide funding to states
to buy lands that support approved endangered species
recovery plans. With land values increasing in many
areas of the country, the state and federal governments
sometimes lack the resources to acquire or protect key
habitat needed to recover a species, Norton said.
Nonfederal project partners contributed an average
of 25 percent of their projects' total costs.
Grant funding will be used to acquire and protect
prairie, coastal, mountainous desert, cave, and riparian
habitat, land that represents critical portions of species'
last remaining habitats.
Some acquisitions support many endangered species
as well as important habitat for migratory birds and
other wildlife. For instance, acquisition of property
in Kern County, Calif., benefits the largest known population
of the Kern primrose sphinx moth by securing protection
for an area that is the only place this species has
been sighted in the past 20 years. In Tennessee, acquisition
of a 25-acre site will protect one of only five known
populations of the endangered Tennessee coneflower.
An additional $6 million in grants for Habitat Conservation
Plan (HCP) planning assistance will help states support
the development of HCPs. By working with the service
during the HCP process to identify ways to offset any
harmful effects of use or development on listed species,
landowners can continue to use their land while promoting
listed species conservation.
"These grants recognize creative and effective partnerships
among states, organizations, and landowners that are
making a difference for endangered species on the ground,"
said Marshall Jones, acting director of the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service. "Successful implementation of
the Endangered Species Act depends on these types of
While the grants to states will buy much protection,
some environmental groups point to other endangered
species that are at risk from federal military activities.
The Center for Biological Diversity points to the proposed
expansion of the Ft. Irwin tank base on to critical
habitat of the desert tortoise, Lane Mountain milkvetch,
and other imperiled wildlife of California's Mojave
desert. "The desert tortoise is suffering alarming declines,
and this expansion will lead to the loss of more than
130 square miles of habitat deemed critical to its recovery,"
the advocacy group said.
The Center opposes a provision in the House Defense
Authorization Bill that permits the expansion of Ft.
Irwin but "preempts the protections and opportunities
for public input set up by the National Environmental
Policy Act and Endangered Species Act."
The legislation gives the army more than 110,000 acres
of lands that the Center considers to be "of great ecological
importance" before the army complies with environmental
laws. "We are even more troubled by the fact that whether
or not this expansion complies with such environmental
laws, the army is permitted to unconditionally retain
these lands for the next 25 years," the Center said.
On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the U.S. Army has
signaled it will seek permission to resume use of Makua
Valley to maintain its expertise and prepare for war
because of the recent terrorist attacks at the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon.
David Henkin, attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense
Fund, said government attorneys told federal Judge Susan
Oki Mollway last week about the possibility that an
emergency motion might be brought by the army. Earthjustice
Legal Defense Fund represents a community group Malama
Makua in a lawsuit against the army. In July, Mollway
granted a preliminary injunction which prevents the
army from resuming live-fire training at Makua.
Elsewhere on Oahu, a $150,000 federal grant to the
state will enable the purchase of five remaining inholdings
at Kaena Point. The acquisition will create one 900-acre
tract of land for the conservation of 12 federally listed
species, including the Hawaiian monk seal and green
sea turtle. The habitat within the land acquired represents
one of the last intact dune and boulder slope ecosystems
in the main Hawaiian Islands and is critical for the
recovery of several species.